When MCV spoke to Capcom at the start of 2015, the firm was in high spirits.
The Japanese publisher had a busy release schedule following a quiet 2014, in which the company released little of note. That in turn followed a 2012 and 2013 which had seen entries in its biggest franchises disappoint fans.
But this year has been significantly more positive.
I'm really happy with our progress and results this year,” European boss Katsuhiko Ichii says.
We've had continued success, with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Resident Evil HD. We are very happy with the current situation.”
Marketing director Antoine Molant adds: What's happened so far is pretty good. And we have a strong line-up coming up. When we saw each other earlier in the year we were smiling, and now we are smiling even more.”
If we had to characterise Capcom's line-up for the year so far, it's something of a fan-pleasing charm offensive. With the launches of ‘classic' survival horror titles Resident Evil HD and Revelations 2, it's trying to bring back lapsed Resident Evil fans. The same is true for the release of DMC: Definitive Edition and Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition for fans of the hack and slash series.
Basically it comes from better communication between the fans and Capcom where we spent a few years putting in place programmes and better processes where we actually hear what they want to play,” Molant explains.
Devil May Cry 4 was one that the fans were asking for for a long time and we backed it with extra content, so there's lots of added value. DMC: Definitive Edition came about from fans asking to play the game at 60 frames per second. This was more controversial when it came out, but regardless it was a highly-rated game. Fan reaction has been brilliant.”
Resident Evil is a typical example of the game that fans have been asking for for years and we decided to make it happen. Sometimes that fans assume that ports are an easy thing to do but in order to make a really good port you really need to get into the development process and really understand how it works. Resident Evil HD was really highly rated so that's the really good thing about it. It was the fastest-selling PSN game as well so it was a really good operation for everyone.”
"2015 so far has been good,
and we have a strong line-up
coming up. We are still smiling."
Antoine Molant, Capcom
Going forwards, Capcom is also releasing an HD port of 2003's Resident Evil 0, as well as a remake of fan favourite Resident Evil 2.
It's all down to the quality, and also whether there is a strong interest to play or replay them from our fan base,” Molant explains on its decision to explore remasters. Listening to what gamers are hungry for stirs our strategy for remastered titles.”
Of course, the firm has released some new titles.
It launched Resident Evil Revelations 2 episodically in February, with one episode coming out digitally each week for four weeks. Then a physical release collected the episodes together with some extra content in March.
Looking at digital vs disc, we know now that our digital business is growing,” Ichii says. On the other hand, our physical business is still very stable. So when it comes to Resident Evil Revelations 2, both were a very good option.
It isn't always the case that people are living in the big city with game stores. So no matter where they may live, they can buy games immediately through digital services. On the other hand there's still loads of people willing to go out and buy discs, they want discs at home, they are collectors. I'm very happy with the physical/digital split.”
Molant adds: Revelations 2 is a great example of how our market is so vast these days that you can find different delivery methods that works for everyone.
It was a trial for us, going both physical and digital at the same time, and it proved a really interesting and successful experience. That's definitely something we'll keep in mind for future releases. It's one of those things where you can't do it for every title, but for an episodic game like Revelations 2, it was a natural progression to try that model.”
This is also the first time that Capcom had attempted using the episodic model.
It was a challenge,” Ichii says. If the first episode was bad, no one would have bought the rest. So it's very hard for R&D. But in a sense there's a challenge.”
Looking forward, Capcom hasits biggest game to come: fighting blockbuster Street Fighter V. And it has some lofty goals for the long-running brawler.
A big direction for us is the eSports aspect,” Molant explains eSports is booming at the moment and we want to make sure that Street Fighter is at the forefront of that. Right now – in terms of fighting games – we're not at the level of League of Legends, but that's where we want to be. We want to be the headline name in fighting eSports games.
We have the Capcom Pro Tour – an annual tournament we introduced in 2014. There are also two UK events, which take place at EGX and Versus Fighting. We'll look to integrate Street Fighter V with them.”
It's clear that Capcom is regaining its confidence after a few challenging years.
It's winning back some disillusioned fans. It's trying its hand at new sectors. It's even attempting new business models. It's making positive steps to find its place in a modern games industry. No wonder they're in high spirits.
Capcom recently restructured the company, with individual regions now having more autonomy. How is this working out for Europe?
Autonomy does not mean isolation,” Ichii explains. I like to work closely with Capcom Japan. I used to work with most of the key personnel there. The fact is our main studio is embedded in Japan, not here. I like to put more and more information into R&D so they can optimise their game into the Western market, giving them more and more information about what people play so that we can integrate technology.”
Molant adds: There's better communication. We have more input now, and R&D is upgrading games to be more in line with what the market wants to play. It allows each local team to sell better games and sell the game better and do the sorts of deals that it should be doing in the UK, Germany and other regions. It lets us just be more in touch with the market because the games we're bringing out are tailored for those who are playing them. It's a whole process of information flow that allows all these things to be possible these days.”